A grant has been awarded to the New York Botanical Garden under the direction of Dr. B. Thiers to create a fully illustrated electronic catalog of the type specimens of macrofungi (e.g., mushrooms and related organisms) currently preserved the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium. Because macrofungi change drastically in appearance upon drying (the state in which they are maintained as museum specimens), photographs and descriptions of the living organism must supplement dried specimens to permit proper identification. Because of the diverse nature of these supplemental elements (some of which are handwritten on paper or in notebooks, some photographs or paintings, some printed in books), it is impossible to store them physically with the specimens to which they refer. The goal of this project is to associate digitized data from the specimens themselves with digitized renderings of supplemental data derived from them, so that all data held by the institution that pertains to a given type specimen are associated virtually through the Garden's on-line specimen catalog, the NYBG Virtual Herbarium. The project to create the type catalog of macrofungi has four parts: 1) data entry, or the transcription of the data from specimen label into the NYBG Virtual Herbarium database system ; 2) supplementation of the label data with information from the published literature; 3) creation of digital images of the specimen and of other supplemental data elements; 4) data evaluation and editing; 4) publication of data through NYBG Virtual Herbarium web site. The project will require both a full-time cataloger to transcribe data from approximately 20,000 specimen labels into the institutional database and assemble ancillary illustrations or other documentation for digitization and a specimen digitizer assistant to capture images. Two student digitizers will learn the techniques of data transcription and specimen imaging, and will develop web pages that interpret the data in the catalog to a broader audience.
The NYBG fungus collection is a key resource for research in this group of organisms. It is the second largest collection of its kind North America, consists of approximately 500,000 specimens. When completed, the type catalog of macrofungi will allow more scientists to use the Garden's collections, and will allow them to obtain the information they need from the collection more quickly and inexpensively. Macrofungi remain one of the most poorly documented groups of living organisms, and many species have not yet been named or classified. Yet, these organisms are critically important in the web of life. The availability of the macrofungi type specimen catalog on-line will reduce the access time to these reference specimens and the data associated with them and facilitate identification and characterization of these organisms. This project will serve the education as well as scientific research. It will actively support work and training by college students as student digitizers. All curriculum aids developed using the Virtual Herbarium will be available for integration directly into other on-line science or technology exhibits or other educational aids.